Menu Close

Dr. Marshall’s Personal Financial Journey

Financial Education and Experience

I graduated in 2021 from the University of Georgia with a Masters in Financial Planning. I have been doing the accounting and bookkeeping for Southern Fabric for almost twenty years. I have been managing my own portfolio and personal finances my entire life.

Background

I am in a very unique position. I work full time for Georgia College, but I am not in the state retirement system. I contribute a portion of my paycheck matched by the university each month to the ORP or optional plan which is a 401(A) which I self manage. Because I work for the state I also have access to a 403(B) plan and a 457(B) plan, both qualified retirement accounts where I can put pre-tax money to reduce my tax burden.

I also am lucky to have a hard working wife that owns a smallish business called Southern Fabric. I have her set up with a Solo401(K) plan which is also a qualified plan, this plan is run by Vanguard and is called an “individual retirement plan“.

Budgeting

For our family budget we use a great little product called YNAB. I have used this product since around 2007 (the very beginning of YNAB). Back then they used Adobe Air and it was pretty cool product. I used YNAB4 for a long time, and have now switched to the app on my phone. This is a highly recommended tool. They have come a long way and they have some great training programs on budgeting.

At Southern Fabric, we use Xero with for our accounting software set up in the Profit First framework. We use an easy product called Gusto for the monthly payroll, they integrate with Xero.

Retirement Accounts

The retirement accounts get a little complicated. Some of the products I use are required (especially for Georgia College). I will get into how I manage them in a minute.

  • M1 Finance: I use this to fund our yearly Roth contributions and have a brokerage account with them. They have a pretty interesting story. They use a pie system and some AI that help manage the portfolio. I don’t use this feature since my situation is a little more complex.
  • Vanguard: We mostly use this to fund the i401(K) from Southern Fabric. Vanguard has a terrible interface compared to M1 Finance, but in the end they really know what they are doing.
  • TIAA and AIG (Valic): I have most of my funds with TIAA since their fees were lower then AIG. I also have my 403(B) and 457(B) with these same folks.
  • HSA Bank: This is linked to a Fidelity account. This is where we invest our annual contribution to our HSA savings account. You can invest the entire amount (except $1000). You do need to be on a high deductible insurance plan before you qualify for the tax savings of an HSA account.
  • Crypto: We do have some funds in crypto, and I mostly use Coinbase to purchase and just move the coins over to a cold wallet.

DIY.MONEY

I have reviewed EVERY fintech software package that has ever been created. I looked at software that financial planners use, I have looked at open source free software. I have looked at apps on the Playstore and Apple store. Every single app did not have the tools that I wanted in an application.

My main criteria was:

  • Transaction level input. I want to be able to put in my transactions and say if it is a contribution, dividend, or just a buy or sell.
  • No bank connections. It seems the number one issue with financial software is the security to connect to all the different banking systems.
  • Asset class assignments. I want to be able to pick a stock or bond or anything and assign it manually to an asset class that I create. Most systems either don’t allow this or they try to force it.
  • Asset allocation. I need to be able to assign my assets from all over my accounts into one giant pie an see my total asset allocation. I should then see what needs to be re-balanced.
  • Net Worth. I want to be able to simply track my net worth over time (assets and liabilities).
  • What is my current income or “real income”. My income is a little complicated. I get paid by Georgia College and we have money coming in from Southern Fabric. We take dividends or owner equity out of Southern Fabric. Most of my Georgia College income goes into retirement accounts. I have a friend that puts his entire paycheck into retirement accounts and only gets like $20 on his paycheck.
  • What is my current savings rate or investment rate. I need my software to tell me what percentage I am saving at. Do I have a 5% savings rate or 85% savings rate.
  • How much have I made this year in dividend returns? I need the software to keep track of all my dividend returns and give me a percentage of return (dividend return / total portfolio). This is sometimes called a dividend yield.
  • Live updates. I need the system to talk to the stock ticker folks and get real time updates on stock prices.

So of course I couldn’t find this. So since I was teaching a Python course and have taught many courses in programming I decided to put together my own software. This is where DIY.MONEY was born.

All of these things can be done with a Google sheet. In fact, that is where I started. I put together a Google sheet to start the development process. I used a simple python web framework called Flask to write the application. I used the Heroku platform to run it on the web and a Amazon RDS database to store the data. This has been an incredible project.

At the end of every month I log into the system and add the 5 – 10 transactions for the month. I look over my assets and put in their current values and look at my liabilities and do the same. I have my retirement funds go into the money market funds so I can decide where to invest them based on the current asset allocation model being used. This is the same strategy that M1 uses in their rebalancing approach of using new funds to rebalance.

DIY Money is founded on 6 main principles or pillars.

  1. Net Worth Tracking
  2. Real Income Tracking
  3. Dividend Yield Shield
  4. Asset Allocation
  5. Yearly Contributions
  6. Savings Rate or Investment Rate